Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones was born July 14, 1926 in Harlan, Kentucky and played for the Harlan Green Dragons in high school. He led Harlan to the State Basketball Tournament for four consecutive years. As a junior in 1944, he became the toast of Kentucky when he scored 73 points over the course of the four-game tourney to lead Harlan to the 1944 state title. As a senior, Jones got Harlan back to the Sweet Sixteen semi-finals before the Dragons were eliminated. He ended his State Tournament career with 223 points scored in the Sweet Sixteen. He finished his high school basketball career with a total of 2,398 points – at that time the highest point total in the nation. He was all-state in football, basketball and baseball.
Jones attended the University of Kentucky, where he continued to play varsity football, basketball and baseball. He was often regarded as the best all-around UK athlete of all time. He was twice All-SEC in football. In basketball, he was a three time All-American and four time All-SEC. At 6 feet 4 inches and 220 pounds, Jones played power forward for a Kentucky Wildcats team that won the National Invitation Tournament in 1946 and was runner-up the next year. He led the Wildcats to two NCAA Championships, in 1948 and 1949. Jones was a member of the 1948 Olympic Gold medal winning team with Adolph Rupp’s “Fabulous Five” and the Phillips 66ers. During his four years at Kentucky, the basketball team had a combined record of 130-10 and won the SEC championship every year.
He holds the unique distinction of being an All-American under both legends, Adolph Rupp (basketball) and Bear Bryant (football) when both coached at Kentucky. He is the only player to have his number retired in both football and basketball at Kentucky. At the University of Kentucky, Jones was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. Jones was selected in the seventh round of the 1949 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, but did not play in the league.
In 1953, Jones was elected the sheriff of Fayette County, Kentucky. In 1956, Jones was the Republican nominee for Kentucky’s 6th congressional district seat in the United States House of Representatives. Though Dwight Eisenhower, heading the Republican ticket, carried the state, Jones lost the election to Democrat John C. Watts.
In 1978, Jones started a charter bus company called “Blue Grass Tours” that was contracted to the UK Athletics department and more recently purchased a custom sleeper coach for the use of the athletic teams.
Known as Wallace in his early years, Jones acquired the nickname, “Wah Wah”, when his younger sister Jackie, just learning to talk, could not pronounce his name.
Jones is a charter member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, and a member of the UK Hall of Fame. He has received numerous awards and recognition’s. Some of those include Southeastern Conference Kentucky Football Legend 1996, Kentucky End 1945-1948, Southeastern Conference Basketball Legend 2001, and Kentucky Forward 1946-1949.
Wah Wah Jones is the only player in the SEC to receive the Living Legend Award in Football and Basketball. During his tremendous athletic career, Jones was the image of sportsmanship and is respected throughout the world.
Jones died in Lexington on July 27, 2014 at the age of 88.
Go here for a great article from the Courier-Journal on Wah Wah Jones.
Here’s another great article on Jones from the NY Times.
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